Fonta Flora Brewery expands to a historic farm site

FARM-TO-TAP: Fonta Flora Brewery owners, from left, Todd Boera, Mark Bennett and David Bennett are pictured inside the historic barn that will soon become the brewery's new farmhouse production facility. Photo courtesy of Fonta Flora Brewery

Fonta Flora Brewery of Morganton has just secured a unique expansion property in partnership with the Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina and Lake James State Park. With the purchase of a historic 49-acre dairy farm, Fonta Flora will become the first true farmhouse brewery in Western North Carolina.

Situated on the old Whippoorwill Dairy Farm just outside Nebo, the future brewery sits 3 miles from a late-19th-century agricultural settlement, also known as Fonta Flora that provided the brewery with its name. The Fonta Flora community was comprised of roughly 100 predominantly African-American sharecroppers who were displaced in 1916 when the village was flooded during the creation of Lake James.

The descendants of the original Fonta Flora inhabitants have taken notice of the brewery’s attention to their history. “They come in here and see everything with Fonta Flora written on it, and it just brings tears to their eyes,” says head brewer and co-owner Todd Boera. It was important to Boera and fellow co-owners Mark and David Bennett to memorialize the historic lost community.

“We all fell in love with the romanticism, the history, the folklore and the community, [and] Fonta Flora will never be forgotten now,” explains Mark Bennett. His brother David adds, “Now we have the opportunity to showcase it even further by building our second brewery in the exact same valley where the original settlement existed over 100 years ago.”

The brewery’s partnership with the Foothills Conservancy, essential to purchasing the substantial acreage and ensures that the property will be maintained under a permanent conservation easement with commensurate guidelines for future development. Under this arrangement, Fonta Flora secured 8 acres of the land, consisting of historic structures in addition to farmable open space. The Foothills Conservancy purchased 40 acres, which will be donated to Lake James State Park later this year, resulting in a brewery and farm site that will be nestled against protected state parklands.

Farming the new property will allow Fonta Flora to grow much of its own produce, with plans including fruit orchards, herb gardens, vegetable patches and supplemental hops and grains. While the brewery’s agricultural presence will provide greater access to adjuncts that have proven difficult to source, such as pawpaws and persimmons, the brewery will continue to rely heavily on area farmers and will still source its malt from Asheville’s Riverbend Malt House.

Whippoorwill’s historic structures will be preserved and renovated whenever possible rather than giving way to new construction, and all restoration is to be completed with historically accurate materials. The farm’s existing structures were built with a unique type of stone mined on-site, designated Paddy’s Creek Stone in reference to a nearby tributary of the Linville and Catawba rivers. A 4,500-square-foot barn is expected to house the future production floor, with a stacked-stone milking parlor that will be repurposed for barrel cellaring and packaging.

Boera has plans to install a 15-barrel production brewhouse. The space will allow him to provide the same attention to detail he has always dedicated to his small-batch saisons and fruited sours while increasing output of flagship clean beers such as Hop Beard IPA and Irish Table Stout, the latter having won a gold medal at the 2014 Great American Beer Festival.

Expected to be operational by year’s end, the production facility will significantly increase Fonta Flora’s capacity to supply its beers to the Asheville market, with plans for a tasting room on the horizon. On the motivation behind developing a farmhouse expansion, Boera says, “Brewing is [fundamentally] agricultural, and so having the chance to take it back to its agricultural roots is pretty awesome.”

Look for expanded coverage of Fonta Flora’s farmhouse brewery project in the March 30 print issue of Mountain Xpress.

SHARE

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

20 thoughts on “Fonta Flora Brewery expands to a historic farm site

  1. Roy Edwards

    I do not like what is taking place here. The owners of this brewery know very little of this historic site.This was the site of the first milk producing plant in this area It was in no way connected to the village of Fonta Flora.

    • Scott Douglas

      I certainly understand your trepidation, but this is likely to be the best possible ownership arrangement for this land. Under the terms of the partnership with the Foothills Conservancy, the land is managed under a conservation easement in perpetuity. This means that the land cannot be subdivided in the future, and all development must be approved by the land trust under stringent constraints. As you will read in the expanded coverage published to be published on March 30, I also interviewed Andrew Kota, the stewardship director for the Foothills Conservancy, who stated that the property had been listed on the open market almost two years ago. Had the land been sold to a private owner or development concern, there would have been no restraints on future development whatsoever. While I do not know of any direct historical connection to the Fonta Flora settlement, the association mentioned in this article has to do with the location’s proximity to the site of the village and position along the same river which passed the original town. As I stated in the article, all structures on the property are to be restored using historically appropriate materials, and any plans for future construction would have to meet the standards of the land trust, which is much more concerned with preserving the property than with the brewery located on it. The fact that the owners of this business were willing to enter into such a restrictive arrangement rather than building in an industrial area, with no such restrictions and at a significantly lower cost, attests to their commitment to the community and its history in my opinion. I am not particularly familiar with the history of Burke County, as I grew up in Haywood, but I was wondering if you might be able to tell me more about the history of this farm? Writing this article has piqued my curiosity, as has your comment. Thank you for reading and responding, Mr. Edwards.

      • Helen Norman

        The Whippoorwill Dairy is on the “same river” that passed through Fonta Flora?

        • Scott Douglas

          You would know better than I, since you literally wrote the book on it. My understanding is that the Whippoorwill Dairy is on the banksof Paddy’s Creek, which flowed past Fonta Flora. If that understanding is incorrect please enlighten me, as I have found this chapter of our region’s history fascinating. Sadly, it is one I know little about beyond my limited research into this story, which was admittedly focused on the brewery .

          • Helen Norman

            Fonta Flora was on Linville River. Not in same valley as Whippoorwill unless you are referring to the Catawba River Valley.

  2. Carla Lane

    WHAT A SAD DAY WHEN PEOPLE DO NOT TAKE THE TIME TO READ THE TRUE HISTORY OF THE DAIRY. I GREW UP
    I iN IN THE COMMUNITY THAT YOU ARE PLANNING TO DESTROY BY PLACING A BREWERY IN A COMMUNITY THAT BELIEVES IN MORALS. PRODUCING BEER ONLY CONTRIBUTES TO A DEVASTATING DISEASE KNOWN AS ALCOHOLISM. YOU MAY NOT PLACE THE BEER IN PEOPLE’S HANDS BUT YOU MAKE THE PRODUCT. YOU COULD HAVE BEEN HUMANITARIAN AND CHOSE TO GROW FOOD TO HELP THOSE IN NEED, OR TURNED THE DAIRY INTO A PLACE TO HELP THE NEEDY BY FOCUSING ON WHAT IT FIRST PRODUCED MILK THAT IN TURN GAVE BACK . YOU ALSO STILL HAVE THE ABILITY TO PRODUCE THE SEED OF CHRISTIANITY AND NOT THE SEED THAT LEADS TO DESTRUCTION.

    • Derek

      You are so vapid it blows my mind. I guess we should stop producing food since it contributes to obesity? We live in America, where you can choose whether or not to drink or whatever else you would like (within reason.) If you want to live in a prohibited society, Iran would be a great choice. You will go to prison for alcohol consumption there. Sounds like the perfect place by your standards. Cheers and long live Fonta Flora.

  3. Doug

    A craft brewery does not drive alcoholism. 30 packs of Busch Ice for $14 does.
    The current taproom brings people together. I’ve seen very few drunk people at the brewery and they wouldn’t be served if they were visibly drunk.
    They are growing local ingredients, hiring locals, bringing tourism dollars to the community, and supporting other local businesses, farms, and charitable organizations. They are building a sustainable business – they are not a charity. Their brewery model will drive many more benefits to the community than having a dairy farm or small local farm – the cost of those products would be prohibitive to those in need.

  4. Derek

    I can assure you, what destroyed your community was lack of jobs and responsible industry. Luckily the craft movement is bringing good paying jobs to NC. Im a lifelong resident as well…if you want to on a religious settlement, Utah is a perfect place to live.

    • Helen Norman

      What community are you talking about? Longtown or Fonta Flora? Why are myths so much easier to assimilate than facts? Longtown and Fonta Flora are not and never were the same community. Progress destroyed Fonta Flora which was not a community of African American share croppers but one of well to do farmers who owned large tracts of fertile land along the Linville River. Everyone needs to read the “Fonta Flora News” in the old newspapers. Longtown has always been a community of a mixture of poor and middle class people who were left in an isolated corner of Burke County when Lake James (Progress) was built. Men and women left the community and found jobs in Marion or Morganton and built a better life for themselves but thankfully returned home as the end of day to their first love which was the beauty of Linville Mountain and Linville Gorge as well as the acres and acres of Duke Power lands that surrounded them. Then came “Progress” again and Duke sold the land but things remained much the same in Longtown with most of the people living on land settled by their ancestors who arrived before 1800. Now “Progress” comes again – not much left to destroy but the history…..

      • Helen

        Leaving the subject of temperance for others to argue – the restoration of Whippoorwill Dairy is going to “turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse”.

  5. Carla Lane

    Read your bible . And by the way, we are not poor , we have a richness and glory greater than anything money can buy. JESUS SAID TAKE UP THE CROSS AND FOLLOW ME
    He never said destroy my works
    We have a beautiful church called Oak Grove Baptist
    All of you are welcome

    • shameful

      Carla stop forcing your religion on others. Your sense of entitlement is incredible. Where were you and your money when the property was on the open market?

    • Matthew P. Smith

      Um…didn’t Jesus turn water into wine? So…isn’t he the original craft brewer? And by your standards we need to follow him?

      Also — on the opposite side of the coin, you also just accused him of causing alcoholism and cursed him. So…Carla Lane…stop taking the lord’s name in vain. That’s a sin. Gonna need to repent to preach on Sunday.

  6. Carla Lane

    By the way DEREK,I have lived in the Longtown community for 51 years and it is amazing that I have never heard of you

  7. Carla

    By the way,vapid refers to tasteless and flavorless. That is exactly how you come across and vapid was used in reference to beer. YOU BORE ME! END OF CONVERSATION!

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.